I am sitting relaxing in my garden. The day is warm, with a few fluffy sheep’s-wool clouds sailing through a sky of piercing lapis, although the shade of the young maple tree under which I am sitting offers me some relative coolness.
A butterfly alights on one of the maple leaves, close enough for me to reach out and touch it. I do not do so, of course, being glad enough of its company. Its wings match the blue of the sky: a little piece of heaven flown down from above. ‘How are you?’ asks the butterfly courteously. I feel the need to be honest. ‘A little down’, I replied, ‘but rather better since you have come to visit me. ‘Ah,‘ said the butterfly unsurprised, ‘that is to be expected. I tend to have that effect upon those whom I visit.’ I noticed that I felt better the longer the butterfly remained with me. ‘Perhaps you could stay with me, then I would always feel better.’ I suggested.
‘Oh, no!’ exclaimed the butterfly emphatically. ‘It just doesn't work like that. Were I always to stay with you, my attraction would diminish to the point where you would not even notice my existence, because you would then simply take me for granted. In my experience, that is what tends to happen, which is why I prefer just to visit, rather than remain.’ I had a mischievous thought. ‘Then perhaps I could capture you!’ I said. ‘That way you would have to stay with me, and I would always have you close by!’ The butterfly smiled knowingly. ‘No, that would not work either! As soon as I am captured, I change. I become something else entirely that you would not even recognise. So you see, there’s no point in trying to catch me.’
‘Then when you fly away, I will follow you wherever you go!’ I laughed, rather smugly pleased with my own persistent ingenuity. ‘That way, you would always be free, and I would always be near you.’ ‘Still no good!’ The butterfly patiently explained. ‘You may chase after me for as long as you want. But if you chase me, you will discover that I always stay just out of reach. Better to just be still in yourself. That way, if you are lucky, I will come to visit you as I have now. Besides,’ the butterfly continued with a flutter of its azure wings ‘my little life is over soon enough. My visits tend to be brief ones, sometimes short, sometimes a little longer. And sometimes those whom I visit do not even realise that I have visited them until after I have flown away. That is the way it is.’
The butterfly fluttered its wings more vigorously, and I felt that it might fly away at any moment. ‘Please wait just a little!’ I asked. ‘’Won’t you tell me your name before you go?’ The butterfly smiled. ‘My name is Happiness.’ It replied.
Painting by Odilon Redon